Residents on both sides of the Mexico-United States border are tired of their region being painted as a lawless, dangerous place by US president Donald Trump.
In response, they’re countering his vision with their own depictions of the border, sharing images of stunning sunsets, smiling children, and the urban sprawl that stretches from El Paso, Texas to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
The pictures are being shared with the hashtag “WeAreTheBorder” through the social media accounts of US House representative Beto O’Rourke, whose given name is Robert, but who goes by the Spanish nickname for Roberto. After Trump issued an executive order to start construction of a wall to block Mexico from the US shortly after his inauguration, the El Paso Democrat asked his followers to send pictures depicting “our beautiful binational community.”
“Donald Trump doesn’t understand the border. Let’s show him what it looks like,” O’Rourke posted on Facebook. “Don’t be shy El Paso, this is our time to shine!
The president’s singular focus on the border has provided its residents with a rare opportunity to take centerstage. Trump’s complaints about the border may be offensive to locals—he infamously referred to immigrants who cross it as rapists, criminals and drug traffickers—but they are raising the profile of a region that has traditionally been on the outskirts of policy making both in the US and Mexico, as one frustrated constituent posted on O’Rourke’s Facebook page.
We spend our lives having to adapt to the national policies set in Washington D.C. and Mexico City… so far from the border. It seems like they do not know how our lives depend on both sides. I was born in El Paso, my dad is a Mexican citizen and my mom is a U.S. citizen. I grew up crossing the border everyday.
With his Facebook initiative, O’Rourke says he wants to tell the border’s story from the perspective of the border. To be sure, the narrative that is emerging first went through the congressman’s office before being posted online. And not everyone is a fan of the idea. Some accused O’Rourke of pandering to supporters; others were skeptical of an all-positive representation of the border, asking about pictures of drug trafficking. But many others responded to the call with images of the border’s beauty, diversity, and potential. Here’s how they see the region, based on a selection of pictures posted by O’Rourke.